Career tips for school leavers

Some of you might be heading off to university or college, some of you might be looking to enter full time employment or maybe you're taking a gap year. Irrespective of which category you fall into, there is no time like the present to start getting focused on your career and identifying your career goals.

Tertiary studies

If you're heading off to study next year, this is an extremely exciting time, with new friends to make and parties to go to, all with a new sense of freedom. Obviously, it is about getting the balance right and I don't mean studying just enough to get through your exams. At the end of the course, you might feel proud to have a degree or diploma to your name, but hundreds if not thousands will be leaving with the same or a similar qualification and be in the market for the same jobs.

It's time to start focusing on what you can do to get ahead of the pack. Any work experience you gain whilst studying is valuable, but try to be choosy. Choose to get work experience that will help you to develop the skills you'll need when you start applying for permanent positions at the end of your studies. If you can, offer your services for free, even if it's only a couple of hours a week.

When completing work placements / internships, apprenticeships or vacation work, take these on with full committment. Put yourself forward to be involved in key projects and learn from them. Get yourself noticed! This will result in good experience for building into your CV, the start of a positive professional network and an exemplary reference, all of which might play a significant part in a future employer's decision to recruit you. There is of course also the possibility that the company you've worked for might offer you a position when you have completed your studies.

Getting straight to work

If you're getting stuck straight into the work place, decide what it is that you feel you're good at and what you would enjoy doing. Identify a career goal before you start applying for positions.

You're far more likely to do well and progress in an environment which you feel "at home" in. If you're not really a "salesy" extrovert, then a sales role isn't likely to see you progress and be at the top of your game! If you know what your strengths are and you're keen to gain skills in this area, choose a position where you can get a "foot in the door" in the right job or industry. For example, if you're creative, you might consider a position as a photographer's assistant or an administrator within a design company or creative agency.

If you're still living at home and finances aren't an issue at this stage, try volunteering your services within relevant departments or organisations to gain experience which will assist you in finding suitable employment.

This is your chance to start building a CV which will lead to greater career opportunities in the future. Never lose sight of what you would like to achieve in your career.

The gap year

If you're taking a gap year and planning to travel, you should be considering your career path for when you return. By the time you get back, your counterparts will have up to a year's work experience or be going into their second year of study.

Try and use your gap year constructively through gaining some valuable work experience in which you can acquire useful transferrable skills. You can also gain skills as a volunteer. For example, you can teach English as a foreign language through obtaining the TEFL certification, or you could join a volunteering backpackers' tour.

Consider what you would like to achieve before commencing with your travels i.e. have a plan. It's absolutey fine to change your plan or goals and seize opportunities as they are presented to you, but having a plan from the outset, will assist in a more productive gap year whilst still enjoying yourself and gaining valuable life experiences! Wouldn't it be great if you could use these experiences to your advantage when entering the job market.

Good luck and have fun!

Author: Nike Wadds, Stand Tall Consulting

Copyright 2012 Stand Tall Consulting